Everything you wanted to know about sleep in questions and answers

By Team

  1. What is r.e.m sleep
  2. How to stop snoring while sleeping
  3. Why do elderly sleep so much
  4. Can you hiccup in your sleep
  5. How to stop sleeping with your mouth open
  6. What is sleep deprivation
  7. How to stop sleepwalking

Sleep is one of the most interesting human conditions. It is not a passive state as many people think. Today we will tell you more about the phenomena that concern sleep.

What is r.e.m sleep

Sleep consists of two phases - slow (NREM) and fast (REM). The phase of REM sleep, or the phase of rapid eye movement, is characterized, as follows from the name, by increased activity of the brain with the accelerated movement of the eyeballs. Almost all muscle groups, apart from respiratory muscles, are relaxed. Breathing, heart rate and body temperature rise during this period, and more oxygen enters the brain. The REM phase takes up to 20% (or up to 120 minutes) of the total sleep time in adults and constantly alternate with slow-wave sleep. The duration of each episode of the paradoxical phase, as REM sleep is sometimes called, is usually 5-30 minutes.

rem sleep phase picture

Most importantly, what happens during rem sleep is the occurrence of dreams. During this phase, the brain filters the information received during the day and "packs" the most important bits for long-term storage. During the REM phase, memories are formed, data are exchanged between consciousness and subconsciousness, and associative thinking is strengthened.

Disruption of the REM phase provokes anxiety, irritability, drowsiness and drop in concentration. If the impairment persists depression may develop. The duration of REM sleep is negatively affected by the consumption of alcohol and other stimulants before the night rest.

How to stop snoring while sleeping

Snoring can have a variety of causes and does not always require immediate intervention. However, in case snoring is bothering you and those around you, you should see a healthcare professional. General recommendations include changing the lifestyle (losing weight; avoiding overeating, alcohol and smoking, especially before sleep; bringing back the work-life balance and having at least 8 hours of sleep). Doing exercise can also help you normalise sleep, as well as fight colds and prevent respiratory problems, which may be the causes of snoring.

man snoring wife can not sleep
Snoring occurs due to the vibration of soft tissues and pharynx and often depends on the anatomical features of the body

Sometimes, special exercises for the tongue, soft palate and pharynx are recommended in order to mitigate snoring. Here are a few simple ones:

  • yawn with your mouth closed;
  • throw your head back and imitate the sounds of gargling;
  • stick out your tongue and try to reach your chin with a tongue tip;
  • hold a pencil or something similar between your teeth, increase the tension of the jaws while you inhale and relax as you exhale;
  • stick out your tongue and draw a circle around your lips; 
  • slide the lower jaw to the right and left, hold it for several seconds in each of the sides.

Snoring usually occurs while you sleep on your back. However, some patients admit: "I snore when I sleep on my side." In this case, snoring may be caused by a much more drastic impairment and it is necessary to contact your medical specialist, as this may require a surgical intervention.

Why do elderly sleep so much

There exist a fairly persistent misconception that the need for sleep increases with age. This is only partially true. Of course, everything is very individual, besides, older people do like to take naps during the day. It is because their sleep-wake cycle is slightly shifted, as they go to sleep and get up earlier. In addition, they may wake up from pain sensations several times a night. Also, in the elderly, the production of melatonin is reduced.

handsome old man sleeping
Hypersomnia in older people can be caused by various reasons, including the fact that in old age the phases of slow sleep are reduced

Researchers still don’t have a clear answer to the question of how much sleep do old people need. It is believed that on average 7-8 hours of sleep is enough for older people. If they tend to sleep longer (10-14 hours) and their reaction to the stimuli decreases -  this is a reason to consider a health check. In the best-case scenario, hypersomnia might be diagnosed, but it may also point out some serious pathology.

Can you hiccup in your sleep

Hiccups are an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm and can indeed occur both during the day or during sleep. It often results from irritation of the phrenic or vagus nerves. Most often, night hiccups occur in men and can be triggered by the following factors: low temperature in the room, overeating at night, alcohol consumption or smoking, drugs, stress, diseases of internal organs, including heart problems, or bad dreams.

The hiccup attack usually lasts for a couple of minutes, but if it prolongs or bothers you more than once a week - this is a reason to see a doctor. If you wake up during the night because of hiccups you can hold your breath for twenty seconds and exhale sharply, calmly drink a glass of water, or put a lollipop under your tongue and suck it up.

How to stop sleeping with your mouth open

Sleeping with an open mouth is not always aesthetically attractive, moreover, often accompanied by increased salivation, snoring, dry mouth, etc. This can occur due to respiratory problems (rhinitis, sinusitis), sleeping on the back, weakness of the circular muscle of the mouth, or neurological problems.

baby girl sleep with open mouth
Children often sleep with their mouths open because their muscles are completely relaxed. However, if they breathe through their mouth, it could be caused by an uncomfortable sleeping position, a runny nose, or nasal infection, etc.

How to sleep with your mouth closed? First of all, maintain a suitable temperature in the room (18-22 degrees Celsius), make sure you ventilate the room and the air is clean and moderately moist. It is also recommended to fall asleep on the side - in this case, the mouth opens only slightly, if it does. Check with the dentist, as the mouth can be slightly opened due to dental problems (stomatitis, periodontal disease). If it is nasal congestion or allergies that are causing it - use the nasal drops prescribed by your doctor.

What is sleep deprivation

Lack of sleep is not always a disorder. Sometimes it is recommended as a treatment for some forms of depression or hyperactivity. Sometimes it is a deliberate choice to enter a different state of consciousness. The positive effects of a controlled, no more than one night, sleep deprivation are believed to be improved mood and performance, as well as increased creativity.

For therapeutic purposes, sleep deprivation is used against suicidal tendencies, increased irritability, psychosis, and paranoia. In any case, such an approach is carried out under the strict supervision of a doctor and only in the absence of contraindications. The latter include, for example, the presence of serious mental disorders, the need to drive vehicles, and mental activity that requires a lot of stress, etc.

woman watch smrtphone before sleep
Sleep deprivation is sometimes used as a treatment approach prescribed by doctors, however, it usually lasts only one night and then the patient is advised to return to normal sleep routine

Usually, specialists prescribe sleep deprivation together with other measures to combat the disorders. As a rule, it is  antidepressants and a good prolonged sleep before the procedure of deprivation.

However, it not often mentioned what are the effects of sleep deprivation. In normal life, it mainly has negative connotations because it at least causes sleepiness during the day and at most - increased risk of diabetes. If you experience sleep disturbances and insomnia, start with normalizing your individual rest routine.

How to cure sleep deprivation:

  • Try to go to bed and wake up at about the same time, including weekends;
  • Have a light snack before going to bed, but do not overeat;
  • Exercise not later than 2-3 hours before bedtime;
  • Create comfortable conditions for falling asleep (darkness in the room, silence, and cool fresh air);
  • Try to avoid stress and overexcitement before going to sleep.

How to stop sleepwalking

Why do people sleepwalk? Somnambulism refers to a sleep disorder when a person performs unconscious actions that, as a rule, cannot be remembered in the morning. Actions can be as simple as sitting on the bed or walking around the room, and quite complex, f.e getting dressed, going outside, and walking in the street. It is believed that this borderline state arises due to some parts of the brain being asleep, while other ones switching to wakefulness. It usually lasts up to 1-1.5 hours and more often affects highly emotional and excitable people. Sleepwalking occurs during the NREM sleep phase.

Although there is no direct harm to health from sleepwalking, a person can injure himself or others as he remains unconscious. That’s why it is recommended to contact a neurologist or psychotherapist. At the same time, it is very important to take care of the sleep schedule, create a soothing atmosphere in the evening before falling asleep, f.e. by listening to relaxing music. By the way, you can use Hypnopedia app for this! It contains a set of special sounds for falling asleep. Natural sounds can be combined with each other and adjusted in volume individually. The main function of the app is reproducing affirmations during sleep. They are perceived at the subconscious level and, in the long term, have a positive effect on mental health.

You can try our app here:

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sleepwalking girl
People used to believe that sleepwalking is associated with the phases of the moon that influences them and makes them wander at night

How to cure sleepwalking naturally? Given that it manifests itself in childhood and adolescence and has genetic predetermination, the only help available is psychological assistance. To obtain a complete picture, diagnostics can be carried out using MRI, polysomnography, EEG. Afterwards, an approximate therapy plan can be obtained. It is also advised to minimize stress and pay more attention to quality rest. One of the approaches suggests hanging a bell on the doorknob so that the person who suffers from sleepwalking would wake up.

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